By ALI AHMED ‘22 and SRINIDHI VENKATESH ‘22
Americans across our nation sat in shock, many glued to their televisions. Across Edison, students’ fingers raced across their keyboards as they texted their friends and swiped through stories. Parents read through the news, trying to figure out how to explain yet another tragedy to their kids. So much communication yet so much more misunderstanding.
We thought 2020 was the ultimate challenge year, the year straight from hell. But here we are, on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and looking back at the way 2021 opened it seems we couldn’t have been more wrong.
A week and a half earlier, on January 6, 2021, armed rioters entered the Capitol, and forcefully attempted to overturn a free and fair election. Destructive and dangerous invaders pushing past sparse security forced Congressional lawmakers had to hide or evacuate. Furthermore, the President of the United States, the leader of our nation, usually quick to take to Twitter to accuse the “fake media” or cry “witch hunts,” remained uncharacteristically silent.
His silence, in fact, spoke volumes.
Students across Edison responded with an array of emotions: shock, anger, fear, disappointment, and worst of all, indifference. We have been taught from day one in kindergarten, that America is a democracy and will always be a democracy. Our democracy is meant to be a safe haven for all, yet this riot only cements what we are unwilling to confront: our democracy is crumbling.
Earlier this summer, numerous Edison High School students gathered together after months of virtual learning, to protest against police brutality and racism. With the past week’s events heavy on our minds, many of us sit in shock as we recall peaceful Black Lives Matter protestors across the nation being cuffed, tear gassed, and beaten. Yet, when terrorists descended on the Capitol, what did law enforcement do? Some fell back; others helpfully provided directions to the House and Senate Chambers; too few did their duty to their nation and attempted to hold back the masses.
We look upon King’s peaceful protests during the Civil Rights Movement, and we see violent resistance from law enforcement. We look upon the events that transpired at Lafayette Square, and we see violent resistance from law enforcement. And yet, we look upon the events of the past two weeks, and we see no armed military resistance. Had the skin color of the protestors been even slightly darker, the spectacle that ensued would have been very different. We have fought time and time again to abolish segregation and racism, yet in our daily lives, many Americans perpetuate this racial divide. How can we, students in a community that prides its racial, religious, and cultural diversity, ignore this hypocrisy?
This hypocrisy however, was not only limited to racial prejudice. We, in Edison, watched from our screens as the insurrectionists charged into the Capitol—they were too blinded by hatred to realize that they were not only supporting white supremacy (the Confederate battle flags flying among the crowds demonstrated as much), but they were fighting other Americans in the name of partisan politics. Americans like you and me, living peacefully not just in Edison, but in cities and towns across the nation. In the United States, after an election is over, we move on with our lives; the nation has spoken, and our leaders have listened. That has been our way of life.
Yet, this time around, political divides drove our nation to the brink of collapse. The President continued to stoke the flames of partisanship and the result was the spilling of American blood on American soil under the roof of the Capitol.
Disavowing such political parties and the tensions they cause, founding father George Washington believed that partisanship would erode the foundation of our country, pitting Americans against their fellow citizens. Seeing the violence that occured in one of the darkest chapters of American history, we must now wonder how the first President felt, looking down from the Dome, above the Capitol Rotunda, watching as the violent mobs — fueled by the very political parties he sought to prevent — overran this temple of democracy he fought to establish.
Now some might argue that we speak out against these riots due to our political beliefs. Indeed, even in a solidly “blue” city like Edison, a wide variety of political beliefs make our politics beautiful shades of purple rather than a solid “red” or “blue.” Yet, even then, the Storming of the Capitol was not a political protest; it was an organized domestic terrorist attack that the President encouraged. And make no mistake, that is precisely what it is — an insurrection. This isn’t a matter of Democrats vs. Republicans; this is a matter of preserving our democracy.
And in this moment, this is the true question that we should all, including us teenagers, be asking ourselves regardless of our political affiliation: is it okay to stay indifferent to this vicious attack?
There is only one answer.
We speak to defend the fundamental ideals that our nation stands upon. Regardless of race, religion, political stance, or background, no student at EHS should accept the degradation of democratic ideals. If we do not condemn such behavior, our silence only enables it. And without holding those responsible accountable for their behavior, we are allowing them to continue their systematic destruction of the democracy we have been gifted.
The first step in holding our leaders responsible is moving forward with the impeachment trials. Although this President has less than a week left in office, even a week is evidently too long for a President who actively encourages sedition. For this reason, the House has voted to impeach the President, attempting to prevent him from ever holding office again. As a citizen of the United States, he is not above any of us; he is a civil servant. He must answer for the crimes he committed. As we learn more about this insurrection, we realize that this attack wasn’t a spontaneous protest-turned-riot. This was a premeditated and organized attack against the United States government, where people across the nation betrayed the ideals of our republic. Indeed for the sake of our democracy, him, his enablers, and these rioters must be brought to justice — they must face the consequences of their actions.
As the American youth, we must decide whether we are willing to set aside the time and energy in our busy lives to acknowledge this atrocity, whether we are willing to shed the chains of partisanship and recognize the assault on our democracy for what it is, whether we are willing to take that scary first step to the podium and admit that our country is failing us. Although most of us don’t have a vote now, we are capable of raising our voices and condemning this assault upon our democracy.
Instead of swiping through all of the posts about current events on your peers’ Instagram stories, take a second to click on them and read about the events happening around you. Take a moment to educate yourself and speak, to ask questions and research. Even if it’s as simple as having a hard conversation with relatives, we must do our part to maintain our democracy.
Ultimately, the duty falls upon us, each and every one of us Eagles, to make our choice, speak out, and protect our nation.
E pluribus unum.